A few weeks ago, ‘Bilum Meri,’ Florence Jaukae, protested over the sale of machine woven fake bilums being sold in Goroka.
Over 20 years, Jaukae built an industry that revolved around the bilum and the women who weave it. Of course there are now many others who do the same now. But she was able to take the art form overseas against the odds.
She bought samples of the fakes and posted a complaint on Facebook calling for government intervention and protection of the art form.
I support that call.
This morning, we bought two samples from a shop in Lae City. Yes. The counterfeits are also being sold here for K19 each – less than half the price of an authentic bilum.
This trend will destroy the bilum industry if we don’t confront it. The Bilum is important for us as a country. It’s popularity has generated interest by international fashion designers who want a piece of Papua New Guinea.
The ‘Bilum’ has evolved into a brand in itself so much so that a French woman with no connection to Papua New Guinea decided to have the word ‘Bilum’ patented as her own. We’;; probably talk about that later.
The art is a revenue earner for women in Papua New Guinea. This is what pays school fees for their kids and puts food on the table. To have foreign owned businesses destroying that revenue stream and art form with no care for this
country’s traditional arts is absolutely infuriating!
How much protection do the women have? Will the ICCC or whatever relevant body take this fight on? Or will be allow this trend to continue until the bilum becomes one of the many counterfeits made in China?